Jerko Čehovin, a former deputy of Positive Slovenia and president of the Association for the Values of the National Liberation Movement of Slovenia in Postojna, has also lost the private lawsuit against Janez Janša at the higher court – the suit involved Janša’s statement in the national assembly of Slovenia that Čehovin had been, according to the archives, “not only a collaborator but an employee of UDBA, a member of an organisation that was judged to be criminal by the Slovenian supreme court”.
A panel of the higher court in Ljubljana composed of Irena Veter, Vesna Rakočević Bergant and Zvone Strajnar has rejected as unfounded the appeal of the former deputy of Positive Slovenia and former member of the criminal organisation UDBA Jerko Čehovin against the judgement of the local first instance court, which had rejected several claims in which Čehovin demanded that Janez Janša retract his claims and apologise and also pay €9,500 including costs as compensation – instead it had ordered Čehovin to pay the costs of the legal proceedings amounting to €1,228.90.
Their explanation states that the first instance court correctly and exemplary addressed all relevant aspects of the dispute, correctly and fully complying with both domestic case-law in similar cases and the case-law of the European court of human rights – it did not overlook any comparable similar case.
Material of state security service collaborators is part of archive
The fact that the former deputy of Janković’s party had been an UDBA member has been mentioned by the press on several occasions, and the fact that he had been a registered collaborator of the state security service is evident from the Central Alphabetical Record of the Republican Secretariat of the Interior from 1987; all of the material is also part of the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia. Moreover, the court heard numerous witnesses who confirmed that Čehovin had been designated in the UDBA register by the code number 55000.
Freedom of expression in political speech is only limited in exceptional circumstances
According to the udba.net list, which was published by Dušan S. Lajovic, this code had marked abandoned collaborators of the state security service who had at some point actively and consciously cooperated with the service. The court also addressed the meaning of the term “abandoned collaborator”, and at the hearing Janša explained that even the booklets of people professionally engaged by UDBA had not recorded that they worked for the state security service as they had been employed in different companies as a cover, for example in Postonjska jama, where Čehovin had been a long-time director. Furthermore, someone who had been a director of a company and at the same time a collaborator could have been an employee of UDBA as well since they would have received an additional payment.
The essential arguments for an unfounded appeal which were considered by the court were the circumstances in which the statement had been made and to whom it had referred, since it had been a parliamentary debate that had been in the public interest, and the ruling of the court was based on the case-law of the European court of human rights. Even though Janša’s words had been objectively offensive according to the court, freedom of expression is only limited in exceptional circumstances (in line with European practice), since it is political speech par excellence.